When first-year Pharmacology student Naira Abou-Ghali messaged the Science and Education Policy Association (SEPA) Slack channel about an award that provides funding to graduate student-led science policy initiatives that focus on civic engagement, Ellie Thompson, Nina Glenn and Joanna Yeung wasted no time. The group put together a proposal to create a science policy-focused podcast and quickly submitted it to the Research!America organization. “We developed the goals of this podcast, and our excitement propelled us to complete a grant application and design our website in less than a week,” said Abou-Ghali.
In December 2020, the team received the Research!America Civic Engagement Microgrant Initiative award to launch their podcast titled “We are Politics Under the Microscope” (PUTM). The PUTM podcast aims to capture and discuss the thought process of policy makers as they respond to complex problems, including the implications certain policies will have for the scientific community, stakeholders and the public. Each episode begins with an overview of a societal problem using an anecdote, reframes the problem with a science policy-related question, and further engages listeners by integrating audio from subject experts.
The group was inspired by the idea that science can be used to re-shape our realities when used as a tool to support the creation of sound policies. “Civic engagement is an important skill for scientists to develop so that the public can understand the impact of science on their everyday lives and for society as a whole,” explained Joanna Yeung. The group plans to cover a wide range of topics including management of COVID-19, payment systems and social determinants of health and gender equality in STEM.
In addition to facilitating conversations within the scientific and policy-maker communities, the group hopes to create a mechanism to communicate directly with the general public by providing accessible information on public health and complex scientific perspectives. The ultimate goal is to raise awareness and encourage community members to participate in the voting process for local, state and federal elections to support policy changes in areas of importance to them.
The first episode will be aired on January 18, 2021 at 12:30pm on Spotify featuring Caitlin Warlick-Short, Ph.D., Director of Communications at the National Science Policy Network. In this episode, the hosts will discuss why and how scientists are meaningful contributors to policy-making, how policy-making works, and how graduate students can contribute to civic engagement.